Epitaph Records, 1992
REVIEW BY: George Agnos
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/22/1998
Bad Religion is the thinking man's punk band. They sure know how to articulate the anger that punk music is supposed to be about better than most I've heard. They also have better musical chops than most punk bands with two very capable guitarists in Greg Hetson and Brett Gurewitz (who likes to be known as Mr. Brett) who give them a fuller sound. Also, they employ harmonies in their songs, which was not very common for the genre.
But it was bands like Offspring and Green Day that took the basic Bad Religion sound to pop success. Although Bad Religion themselves did not reap in that success, they did manage to get signed onto a large label: Atlantic Records. Generator, released in 1992, was their last album for Epitaph Records.
Things get off to an explosive start with the title song. "Generator" is fast, noisy, with pulsating bass lines from Jay Bentley and exhilarating drumming from Bobby Schayer. The guitar solos are fine yet economical. The next song "Too Much To Ask" is much of the same, only faster. In fact, the whole first half of the CD keeps up the fast pace with only varying degrees of speed. The lead singer is Greg Graffin who sounds sort of like Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong with just a touch of Husker Du's Bob Mould (who no doubt is an influence on this band).
Graffin and Mr. Brett share songwriting duties on Generator. Lyrically, I like Graffin's "No Direction" which tells the listeners to be individuals and not follow celebrities whether it is Madonna (mentioned in the song) or Bad Religion themselves as the chorus warns: "You'll get no direction from me." And even more compelling is Mr. Brett's "Two Babies In The Dark" which tells the story of a mother raising her two kids after the father has left them.
Bad Religion does have a few musical tricks for the second half of the CD. The harmonies to the chorus of "Atomic Garden" remind me of the Mamas and Papas song "California Dreamin'" even though the rest of the song could not be more opposite in sound and attitude. "The Answer" is a parable slowed down to more of a midtempo pop level. And then there's the last song on the album: "Only Entertainment." With its appealing rhythm guitar part and hooky chorus, this could have been a great single, that is, if it wasn't such a diatribe of the entertainment industry. This sense of irony gives the album a much needed playful quality. But it might be too little too late.
The flaws I see in Generator are as follows: while Graffin's vocals are crystal clear so you can hear pretty much every word, I wish he had more of Mould's or Kurt Cobain's growl to put some of the songs over. The trouble is he has so many words to spit out, he cannot afford to show any vocal range. And that brings up the second flaw, I think the band is just a tad too earnest. Sure, they have some important things to say, but they seem to take themselves too seriously, and after awhile the lyrics come off as too preachy. They should remember, it's only entertainment.
To me, these flaws keep this album from being in the same league as the best from either Nirvana or Husker Du. Still, Generator is a solid effort from Bad Religion and is worth a listen for several excellent cuts.